Campaign tackles climate change by reducing meat in public sector meals

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A CAMPAIGN to combat climate change by reducing meat consumption in meals served across UK public services was launched earlier this month.

Called #20percentlessmeat, the initiative pledges to trim by 20% the amount of meat served by public service caterers working in schools, hospitals, universities, care homes, catering colleges, prisons and the military.

The motivation behind the initiative, drawn up by the PSC100 Group of catering industry leaders, is to curb greenhouse gas emissions generated by meat production.

Andy Jones, chair of the public sector catering PSC100 Group, commented on the scheme:

“I want to make clear at the outset that our #20percentlessmeat campaign is not about ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and encouraging people not to eat meat, nor is it about supporting a diet fad.

“It is about the health and well-being of us all and contributing to a needed reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Launching the #20percentlessmeat campaign is one of my proudest moments, especially knowing that the chairs of all the catering associations and supporters of PSC100 are fully committed to it.

“I have already reduced my weekly meat intake by 20% and made diet changes to eat less red meat, but I will still champion the use of British food and support our great farmers and growers by encouraging public sector buyers to use better quality, locally sourced, traceable and sustainable produce.”

According to the initiative, 45m kilograms of meat are served within the sector every year and achieving the 20 per cent target would cut emissions by about 9m kilograms.

In animal terms that would equate to 45,000 cows or 16m chickens.

The initiative has been backed by a number of catering industry bodies, including The University Caterers’ Organisation, UK school meals provider LACA and Love British Food.

The National Association of Care Catering has also backed the move, but its chair, Sue Cawthray, told the Guardian it would require work to implement: “I would say our biggest challenge to meeting the 20% target is the mindset of many of those currently in care homes.

“The majority would have been brought up on a staple diet of meat and veg and will be resistant to change.”

Although the public response of the initiative has been supportive so far, a move towards more plant-based diet opens the floor to wider discussion on the impact of food production to climate change.

NFU President Minette Batters responded when Climate Change Committee’s report, ‘Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK’ was published last month: “When talking about changing diets, plant-based products do not always necessarily have a lower impact on the environment.

“It all depends on where and how the ingredients have been produced, the environmental pressures involved in its production, the environmental management associated with that country’s agricultural system and the environmental resources available, as well as how far the product has travelled.

“I believe British farmers are very much part of the solution.

“We want to be the model for climate-friendly food production around the world – food production that continues to include nutritious beef, lamb and dairy products for the world to enjoy as part of a healthy, balanced diet.”